12 Sep 2014

Oxford’s Bullingdon boys: in a class of their own

The film Riot Club is a fictional account of Oxford’s infamous Bullingdon drinking society. But some real-life members of the club have gone on to find fame – and notoriety – for other reasons.

You like expensive eating and drinking, you’re happy to appear in public in a tailcoat, you enjoy flaunting your affluence, and you’re in touch with your yobbish side.

Well, provided you study at Oxford University, have a title, and were educated at an elite public school, the infamous Bullingdon club could be just outré dining outfit for you.

Not that you can actually apply to join the “Buller”. Don’t think you’ll be welcomed into the charmed circle simply because you once roasted a deer on an open fire in your rooms at Christ Church – although such behaviour probably helps.

You have to be invited to join. If it has membership rules, nobody’s saying. It’s not the sort of set-up that has a website.

And once you’re in the Bullingdon, don’t think it guarantees a future life of untrammelled contentment. The lives of several of those who’ve passed through the club have been marked by controversy and, sometimes, tragedy.

So before you fork out several thousand for a bit a clobber that makes you look like a superannuated Old Etonian (an almost mandatory qualification), check out the life stories of these Buller boys.

Rasputin (Getty)

Prince Felix Yussupov

Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov was a Russian aristocrat who fled his homeland for Paris after the 1917 revolution. But his claim to fame is that it was he who lured the “priest” Grigori Rasputin (pictured above) to his death in 1916.

John Profumo (Getty)

John Profumo

Profumo was Conservative secretary of state for war in 1961, during the cold war, when he began a sexual relationship with Christine Keeler, a showgirl who also enjoyed a relationship with the Soviet naval attache.

After news of his affair emerged, Profumo resigned and devoted much of the rest of his life to volunteer work. The Profumo affair may have contributed to the downfall of the Tory government in 1964.

Lord Longford (Getty)

Lord Longford

Francis Pakenham, the seventh earl of Longford, once said he felt more admiration for John Profumo than for all the men he had known in his lifetime.

Longford himself courted controversy for much of his life. A Labour peer, he campaigned for the release of Moors murderer Myra Hindley. In the socially liberal 1970s he was an active anti-pornography campaigner, for which he was satirised in some quarters.

Harold Wilson, the then prime minister, said of him that he had a mental age of 12.

Viscount Weymouth (Getty)

Viscount Weymouth

Alexander Thynn, the multi-millionaire seventh marquess of Bath, is famed among other things, for the maintaining simultaneous relationships with several women – his “wifelets”. He has described himself as a “polygynist”.

Known for his colourful style of dress, Viscount Weymouth is also a keen painter.

Alan Clark (Getty)

Alan Clark

The Conservative minister kept a series of diaries which cover his days as a politician and detail his many romantic conquests. In one instance, he reveals having had affairs with the wife and two daughters of a prominent South African lawyer.

Clark blamed his death in 1999 of a brain tumour on exposure to mobile phones.

Gottfried von Bismarck

Tragedy struck the great-great grandson of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1986 when Olivia Channon, daughter of the then Conservative government minister Paul Channon, died in his rooms at Oxford.

20 years later, in 2006, Anthony Casey died after falling 60 feet from Bismarck’s Chelsea flat during what may have been a gay orgy. When the German aristocrat himself died less than a year later, the coroner found that his body contained the highest level of cocaine that he had ever seen.